Barack Obama met the editorial boards of the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times on Friday and finally answered in detail questions surrounding his same-day real estate purchase with indicted influence peddler Tony Rezko.
On what I consider the key question in the entire matter, Obama's answer was evasive. I'm glad the Tribune finally asked the question but disappointed nobody pressed him further on his non-answer. He said that Rezko intended to develop his part of the saleâ€”Obama's side yardâ€”and that Barack and Michelle welcomed that. He said a house right next to his would serve as a buffer to traffic. And he said before the Secret Service came along, people peered into his house from the street.
He would rather have a house butting up against his rather than trees, bushes and open space? Sorry, I'm not buying it.
Tribune: Senator, could I try to understand a little bit, the virtue you and Michelle saw in developing that lot? I don't think [street name redacted] is all that busyâ€”it's not 47th or 55th [Streets]â€”and it seems that there is virtue in having that empty lot, particularly with that wall of evergreens that went up along the south side.
Obama: I guess there are different aesthetic opinions. We did not think that . . . I could see the advantage of having the whole thing, and then maybe doing something with that. We were building a fence, we didn't own the lot, and having a house there would have been, from my perspective, probably preferable, partly because those evergreens are not rock solid. People often peer into our house. Or at least they did until Secret Service showed up. They are less likely to do so now.
Tribune: And you never had a conversation with Mr. Rezko about would he keep that vacant so you'd have that, it was clearly your understanding that . . .
Obama: It was my understanding that it was going to develop the property.
Tribune: And did he ever make any movement in that direction? Was there any effort to develop it?
Obama: Frankly, he had owned a lot of lots. I don't know. But what I know is that he was involved in a very big development downtown. I don't think that this was at the very top of his list. And by the time that . . . in any situation, the pace of developing a lot might not be immediate, but apparently he was in legal trouble at this point. And so I don't know his motives or what was going on at that time.
This is not an insignificant point. As Hugh Hewitt pointed out recently, if Barack and Tony agreed that Tony would buy the vacant lot and hold it that way until the Obamas could buy it later, it very well might be considered an illegal gift under U.S. Senate rules. I've made the same point several times in recent months.
So, let's all consider this question. If you wanted more privacy would you rather have a house or apartment building close to your house, or green space, trees and whatever landscaping buffer you could afford?
I don't find Barack's answer in the mainstream of logic, common sense, or perhaps, truthfulness.
UPDATE: In the audio of the Sun-Times visit, as the meeting was breaking up, a reporter asked Obama point-blank whether he and Tony discussed keeping the land vacant. Barack said "no." This interchange is not captured on the Sun-Times transcript.
This is mind-boggling. The self-described friends, who socialized four or five times a year and who conducted a walk-through of the house, never discussed keeping property vacant that Tony was buying next door? So Tony just said he was developing the lot and that was that? His good friend Tony never asked Barack what his preference was for the adjacent lot?
Barack's answer is difficult to believe.